You fold your matchstick arms, one atop the other,
The sun is a token of yellow,
Glinting through the window behind you,
Playing off the filaments of your skin,
The skin of my soldier boys.
You twist the straw wrapper,
Threading it through your fingers,
Then crumpling it in your fist, which contains your story.
I choose to take another bite, the avocado slippery on my tongue.
“How do I unscrew you?” I think.
“How do I unfold you?”
You who have determined to occupy so little space.
I think of you,
Tucking yourself under the pews at church,
Until the parishioners left and you slept there alone,
Notched in the arms of God.
I wait for you.
I wait with you.
You slough off your shell.
And tell me about the father who sold you,
And your mother who let him.
You walk a tightrope between telling and keeping,
I hold onto your silence,
Watch the landscape of your face,
Marvel at your eyes, still white, still lit.
You tell me about being a slave at the age of ten,
And of the man who tried to undo your silver straps.
But the worst of it all
Is the family who rescued you,
Called you Princess,
And then poured it all out and sent you back.
You say to me, “I think I must be hard to love.”
With bravery trickling down your face, you whisper,
“It is hard for me to love.”
I nod. I know this difficulty of loving and being loved,
The exquisite risk of allowing myself to be loved.
We sit across from each other,
Two so hard to be loved.
And somewhere on the table,
Between lunch plates and crumbs,
Love has joined us.